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Wranglers rally past Strasburg

By Brad Fauber - sports@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- The Strasburg Express fell 6-3 at home in the opening game of a pseudo-doubleheader against visiting Luray in Valley League action on Thursday evening.

Thursday's opening contest was a continuation of Strasburg's home-opener against the Wranglers on June 7, which was suspended at the end of four innings due to problems with the field lighting. The Express had taken a 3-2 lead with a three-run outburst in the bottom of the fourth inning just before the suspension, but Strasburg found little success on offense as the game resumed on Thursday.

"We just didn't come to compete -- that's the bottom line," said Express coach Butch Barnes. "These guys are college baseball players, and they've got to hustle, they've got to make the routine plays, they've got to hit -- they have to go up there [to the plate] with an approach. They didn't."

The Express entered Thursday having lost their last three games by a combined score of 23-4, and the struggles on offense continued through the five remaining innings of game one.

Strasburg managed just one hit -- a bunt single by shortstop Billy Motroni to lead off the bottom of the seventh -- against Luray starter Mike Avila and stranded a runner on base in each of the final three innings.

Avila, who tossed the first four innings before the suspension last week, pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings on Thursday to pick up the win. Bunk Coronado pitched the final 1 1/3 inning for Luray to get the save.

"Our approach at the plate is not very good right now," said Barnes. "I think we're going up with a selfish approach, and until we change that, the results are going to be the same."

Harvard University's Baron Davis started on the mound for the Express on Thursday and labored through four-plus innings while getting slapped with the loss.

Davis played with fire early as he allowed a pair of Wranglers to reach base in both the fifth and seventh innings, but managed to escape damage both times to keep the 3-2 lead intact. He allowed five walks and three runs (one earned).

Luray finally broke through in the top of the eighth inning when a two-out error by Strasburg allowed Luray's Roche Woodard to reach first and keep the inning alive. Davis then issued a walk to No. 9 hitter Tim Whetzel, and leadoff-man Robbie Campbell ripped the first pitch he saw from Davis into the gap in left-center for a two-run double to give the Wranglers a 4-3 lead.

"Walks and errors are the two things that will hurt you most," Barnes said. "When you have multiples in one inning, you're just not going to win any ballgames."

Luray tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning when Jordan Krauss sent an 0-1 pitch from Express reliever Sam Fourre over the fence in center to give the Wranglers the final 6-3 margin.

The dinger was technically Krauss' second two-run homer of the game, as the junior from Wheeling Jesuit University sent a 2-0 pitch from Strasburg's then-starter Anthony Buonopane onto the storage shed roof beyond the fence in left-center on June 7 to give the Wranglers a 2-0 lead.

Strasburg responded in the bottom of the fourth when second baseman Josh Gardiner pulled an RBI single into left field to cut the deficit to one run, and Motroni and George Smith followed with back-to-back RBI infield singles to give the Express a 3-2 lead.

Luray entered Thursday having won three straight games after dropping its first six contests, and continued the momentum with the victory in game one on Thursday.

"I was real pleased with Avila pitching -- he had been behind but came back and pitched and did a great job there," said Wranglers coach Mike Bocock. "Robbie [Campbell] had the big hit when we needed it. If we hit, we're going to be a pretty good baseball team this season."

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